Priceless Friendships

My child-“hood” was not a pleasant “place” to be for me.  For me, that space lacked rooms in which to hide when I was ridiculed, bullied, and rejected by my peers.  I was always on the outside looking in.  It was sometimes a little scary, a lot of times lonely.  I frequently felt ugly as my thighs were “thunder” and my teeth were buck.  Self-confident and self-assured – NOT!  I don’t think I had many friends, and I didn’t know how to make them (how many of us knew how to cultivate relationships when we were six?).
This evening, my very good friend had a cozy get-together for her friends and her parents (who were visiting from their hometown).  My husband and I hadn’t seen her parents in several years, and this was the first time they were meeting my daughter, who is 2½ years old.  My very good friend and I met years ago as members of the same church.  I taught a Bible study at this church with a young woman (we were “young” as women in our early- to mid-30s) with whom I thought our friendship would be lifelong.  After many weeks, we concluded the first part of the Bible study and were beginning the second part.  As we waited in the room for our participants to arrive, two young women walked in together – Kathy and Corey.  Corey walked in with a purse that looked like it was made out of a pattern endorsed by “The Muppets.”  Kathy had this burst of energy and delight that made me a little curious.  That was over 10 years ago. 
Throughout the past 10 years, Kathy and I have gone through a myriad of testings, trials, and tribulations.  And through it all, she’s been the only one (besides my husband) I could really confide in, the only one who wouldn’t say to me, “Just pray about it – God will work it out” or “I’ll be praying for you sister” or “Keep the faith” or something cliche-ish like that.  She wouldn’t try to give me solutions to my problems – she would just be there.    
Interestingly, especially since I’ve been married (she is single), we don’t talk to each other all that much anymore.  Yet she’s still always there, especially when I don’t feel self-assured and self-confident (those feelings of inadequacy have not completely faded from my childhood at all).  And it’s not like she’s taking my side all the time (I don’t believe those types of relationships in which a person is always agreeing with the other are healthy anyway).  Nevertheless, Kathy has a good way of helping me put things in perspective sometimes. 
I can’t say for sure how I’ve cultivated this relationship at all (thus, 35 years later, it seems I’m no better off knowing how to really build good relationships than when I was six!).  All I know is that after 10 years, going to Kathy’s wonderful holiday gathering this evening was delightful.  Being with her, her parents (who are an incredibly wonderful and beautiful couple), and a few old friends was priceless.
As women, how do we learn to cultivate good, healthy relationships with other women?  How do you establish new friendships?